As the government reopened after a 16-day partial shutdown, small-business owners have a message for Washington: "Thanks. Sort of."
"The damage has already been done," said Ron Putman, an entrepreneur in San Diego. While the government was shuttered for more than two weeks, the region's annual Miramar Air Show was nixed.
The cancellation left Putman—operator of a franchise cart business that sells coffee and smoothies—standing idle. He had 16 cases of perishable bananas ready to go, 20 gallons of brewed coffee and no customers to serve. "I found out the air show had been canceled from my friend, who saw it on the news," Putman said. "I thought he was joking."
The air show had brought in as much as 20 percent of his annual revenue, when the economy was pumping five years ago before the 2008 recession hit. "It was just a shock for all the vendors there, setting up tents" this year, said Putman, regional developer for Maui Wowi Hawaiian.
For businesses across the nation, a deal to reopen the government and extend its borrowing authority is getting scant cheers from Main Street. While the agreement brings relief for furloughed workers, many smaller merchants are wondering what's fundamentally changed with the fiscal deal. A reopened government doesn't mean business owners will pocket refunds for lost revenue, or other costs incurred during the stalemate.
"You're constantly trying to stay ahead of what the government is going to do, but nobody knows, so we just push forward," said Bryan Scott, owner of Barn Light Electric. The Titusville, Fla.-based manufacturer of porcelain lighting includes online customers in the Northeast. On Oct. 1, Day One of the shutdown, its online orders tumbled 70 percent before eventually recovering.
"The mood has been up, then down," Scott said. "It has just been a roller coaster."
(Read more: States hurt the most by the government shutdown)